Sunday, February 12, 2012

SENATE’s Duty: Ignore SC TRO

A couple of days ago, the Supreme Court by a vote of 8-5 issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the Senate as an impeachment court from compelling bank officials to open the foreign currency deposits of Chief Justice Renato Corona who is being tried for impeachment.

The Senate action was to aid in its quasi-judicial and quasi-political function and duty to unearth the truth regarding CJ Corona’s undeclared and unexplained wealth. This duty flows from the Senate’s Constitutional mandate to hear, try and decide impeachment cases SOLELY and EXCLUSIVELY – meaning, free from interference and RESTRAINT from any party either temporarily or permanently.  The only possible exception is an intervention by the people directly in the exercise of their sovereign power.

Eight Justices with no mandates from the sovereign people cannot and should not be allowed to intervene in the exercise of the nationally-elected Senators’ political will and wisdom representing millions, and those of the Congressmen representing 75% of the populace. It would be self-serving by any standard.

Heeding and honoring the SC TRO would not just be surrendering its SOLE and EXCLUSIVE AUTHORITY, but the Senate would also be evading and avoiding a solemn duty to obtain evidence from all sources in trying high public officials accused of betraying public trust.

Allowing the TRO would be looked at as aiding and abetting the likes of CJ Corona to avoid the discovery of undeclared, unexplained and hidden wealth to the disappointment of the Senators’ constituencies who granted them the power, the duty, the prerogative and discretion. This would be an unnecessary non-use of Constitutional sovereign power.

Corollary to this power, the legislative body is also given the prerogative to grant immunity to witnesses that assist them in attaining the goals and policies that promote the people’s interests and welfare.  This means that witnesses, who fear that they could be prosecuted for violating certain laws, could be granted immunity from prosecution because they have been called upon to attain a greater goal. In fact, in certain cases, the witnesses were even granted rewards for performing a patriotic citizens’ duty.

This prerogative is a settled law.

“The power to grant immunity from prosecution is essentially a legislative prerogative. (Doyle v. Hofstader, 257 NY 244).

“The exclusive power of Congress to define crimes and their nature and to provide for their punishment concomitantly carries the power to immunize certain persons from prosecution to facilitate the attainment of state interests, among them, the solution and prosecution of crimes with high political, social and economic impact.” (Mapa Jr. v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. No 100295, April 26, 1994, 231 SCRA 783.

“In the exercise of this power, Congress possesses broad discretion and can lay down conditions and the extent of the immunity granted.” Tanchanco v. Sandiganbayan (Second Division), 512 Phil. 590 (2005).

This prerogative and discretion is reflected in Presidential Decree 1732, Republic Act 1379, and Presidential Decree 749 as willed by the sovereign people through Congress.

There is nothing that can prevent them from doing it in the exercise of their solemn and sovereign duty in impeachment cases.

There is nothing that can prevent the Senate from working with the House to pass a Congressional resolution asking the President to grant pardons to the brave and patriotic citizens who aid in exposing public officials who commit graft and corruption and hide the material effects of their crime.

Of course, there is nothing that can prevent both Houses to pass a law that clearly and specifically allow, without doubt, impeachment cases as exception to the absolute confidentiality of foreign currency deposits,

There is wisdom to what the non-lawyer Senator Judge Antonio Trillanes said, “there is absolutely no basis for the claims of some quarters that the subpoena issued by the Senate ordering the opening of the dollar accounts allegedly owned by Chief Justice Corona with the PSBank will result in loss of privacy of bank deposits and will adversely affect the country’s banking system.

“First of all, the exception from the bank and foreign currency deposit secrecy laws which will result from the implementation of the subpoena will apply to a handful of impeachable officials only and specifically in impeachment cases only,”

Under the Constitution, only the President, the Vice President, members of the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman and Chairmen and Commissioners of the Constitutional Commissions can be the subjects of impeachment.

It is very clear that investors, corporations, private businesses and private individuals and even ordinary officials and rank-and-file government employees will not be affected since they are not impeachable officers and can never be respondents in any impeachment case,”

He added that at the end of the day, the precedent created by the impeachment court’s ruling can potentially affect only corrupt, high-ranking government officials. This should in fact be a welcome development because of the law. It should never be a refuge for those engaged in corruption and other criminal activities,” Trillanes said.

Senator Judge “Sonny” Trillanes gets it right. The others should get it too!

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